What a Wonder!

Trip Start Sep 07, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
In a tent!

Flag of Peru  , Sacred Valley,
Monday, October 17, 2011

We met our guide for the trek, David, and after a bit of waiting around and the obligatory pictures at the beginning of the trail, off we started.  The first part went well, nice wide paths (no vertigo) and sunshine.  In fact, in spite of my panic the night before, it was rather lovely.  There were a couple of biggish hills but David timed in some nice breaks where he told us about the history of the places were at and the geography of the places and the significance of the valleys which at one crossing point north, south, east and west.  Our porters had obviously passed us, despite carrying 25 kilos each and we got to our lunch point and they had set up a big tent, prepared warm water for a quick wash and then we had lunch, which, I must say was fantastic.  Asparagus soup as a starter followed by fresh trout - didn´t expect that half way up a mountain!  Our lunch views were amazing with snow capped mountains in the background and a stream running just by us.  We finished the day´s hike at about 3-4, where again the porters had set up camp for us with hot water for our sweaty feet!  We had a very chilled afternoon with ´tea´ at 5 followed by dinner at half 6.  They certainly wanted to keep our energy up.  David then warned us about the next day´s hike - 5 hours walking uphill over 8km and over 1200 metres up!  This didn´t help induce a good night´s sleep, I must say!

As expected the next day was HARD!  The first couple of hours weren´t too bad and then came the difficult part.  Inca steps are not nice and evenly spaced apart, neither are they of a uniform height and we had something like 5000 of them to walk up through ´Dead Woman´s Path´, named for obvious reasons!  Thank goodness for the team though - we were really supportive of each other, lots of cheering and enthusiasm at important points - and Anita and Gilly were amazing.  We were at the back and formed our own mini group, taking it in turns to set the pace and give encouragement when needed.  And at one point, about 200 to 300 metres from the top, I really needed it.  Having been the positive one for a while, I suddenly had the real feeling that I couldn´t go any further.  Needless to say that Gilly and Anita were great, fed me chocolate and Gatoraid, gave me a quck hug and I was ready to make it to the summit!  At 4200 metres, it was bloody cold at the top and we didn´t stay long!  I took the downhill nice and slowly as my dislike for heights is worse on the way down when I can actaully see how far I can fall.  But we all made it safely to camp for the second night.

The rain came overnight and the next morning we awoke to rain and heavy mist and fog.  Again the beginning was ok, but then came the horrendous steps down and down and down (and they were wet and slippy).  I wasn´t doing too well and David insisted that I come to the front of the group.  This seemed like the most ridiculous idea to me - put the slowest, most nervous person at the front to hold up everyone else, where they could all see what an idiot I was - so I said I´d be happier at the back.  But the whole group insisted!  After some more refusal by me, I eventually gave in and set a very slow pace!  However, suprisingly, the expert knew what he was on about and after a while I did find it easer at the front and got a bit more confident following in David´s footsteps.  By this point the rain hadn´t ceased and we were all very wet - ponchos weren´t holding up that well!

After some tension, caused by one particular person in our group who claimed to have ´hyperthermia´ (it was cold, but not that cold) and who wanted to take a poncho from one of the porters, lunch consisted mainly of a row (initiated by me - I never was very good at keeping my opinions to myself).  But our group leader was great and calmed everyone down.  Off we went for the afternoon´s hike.  Unfortunately, we couldn´t see most of the Inca ruins on this day because of the mist, but we did walk through some which were spectacular and by this point I was starting to feel like I was able to walk down steps without the fear of falling all the way to the bottom.  At the end of the day´s 17km hike we made it to camp for another spectacular dinner.  Only this one came with a suprise.  Our cook, Borris, had made us a cake!  I still am not sure how he made a cake, up a mountain with only a stove, but make it he did.  We then said our goodbyes to the amazing porters, including Benito who´s in his 60s, and got an early night ready for the 3am start the next day.

Through the darkness we started and after some rather crazy running, we made it to the Sun Gate just in time to see Machu Picchu before it disappeared in the mist.  So we set off to see it a bit closer up.  We got there at about 7am and there weren´t too many tourists about.  It´s difficult to describe something you´ve seen in pictures so many times, but it was breath taking.  We spent a few hours walking around the site before finally heading down for lunch and a well earned beer, where we saw Benito, one of our porters and invited him for a drink and to share our pizzas.

I loved the train journey back to Ollantaytambo in the afternoon, and enjoyed the beers and the feeling of successfully completing the trek even more.  After a giggley journey and some singing we got back to Cusco that evening.
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